Hatha Yoga Origin and Evolution


The word yoga was first used in the Rig Veda but not clearly explained. Patanjali introduced Ashtanga (eight limbs) yoga and the Asanas are part of Patanjali yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on the Asanas and Pranayama parts. Hatha is a Sanskrit word. “Hatha” means forceful or willful. And some people describe this as ‘ha’ means Sun and ‘tha’ means Moon. Hatha yoga consists of Asanas (postures), Shatkarma (purifying practices), Mudras (hand and finger positions), Bandhas (locks) and Pranayama (breathing exercise). In this article, we discuss on Hatha yoga’s origin and evolution.

Sources of Hatha yoga:

Basically there are three books on Hatha yoga available, from ancient India. They are Gheranda Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Shiva Samhita.


  • Gheranda Samhita: Samhita means a collection. The name represents the Gherandra’s collection. The book belongs to nearly 17th century. These are the teachings of Gherandra to his desciple ‘Chanda Kapali’. Gheranda Samhita is considered the encyclopedia of yoga. There are only a few differences between Hatha yoga Pradipika and Gheranda Samhita. Both Gheranda Samhita and Hatha yoga Pradipika have similarities with Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. Gheranda Samhita explains seven limbs of yoga. Those are

    • Shatkarma – six types of purification methods
    • Asana – postures
    • Mudra – hand and finger positions
    • Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses
    • Pranayama – breathing exercise
    • Dhyana – meditation
    • Samadhi – the goal of yoga, higher level of concentration
  • Hatha Yoga Pradipika: Hatha yoga Pradipika was written by Swami Svatmarama in Sanskrit in 15th century CE. Hatha yoga Pradipika is the practices and experiments of Swami Svatmarama. The book consists of four Upadesas (chapters). They explain Asanas, Pranayama, Kundalini (corporeal energy), Bandhas, Kriyas (action, deed effort), Chakras (spinning wheel, vortex, or circle), Shakti (empowerment, sacred force), Nadis and mudras.

  • Shiva Samhita: Shiva Samhita is written in Sanskrit. The author and the exact period of time are not known. Some scholars’ opinion is that it was written in 17th and 18th centuries. Recent scholar James Mallinson opined that it belongs to period before 1500 BC. It consists of 84 Asanas. Only four of them have been described in detail. It also contains mudras, meditation, etc. as other books do.

Recent developments:

  • Sritattvandhi was compiled by maharaja of Mysore in the 19th century. It contains details of 122 Asanas.
  • B.K.S. Iyengar published ‘Light on Yoga the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’ with 360 asanas in the year 1966.
  • Dharma Mittra completed a master yoga chart with 908 asanas in 1984.
  • A remarkable expert of yoga is Sri Krishnamacharya. He travelled throughout India and taught yoga several students in 20th century. The famous yoga teachers are Indra Devi (who opened a yoga studio in Hollywood), Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga Vinyasa System), B.K.S. Iyengar (authored many books and founder of Iyengar yoga), T.K.V. Desikachar (son of Krishnamacharya and founder of Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram).

Today, there are many yoga types around the world. Many yoga experts developed their own yoga style. Some of them are Anusara, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Baptiste yoga, Bikram yoga, Flow yoga, Jivamukti yoga, Power yoga, Subtle Yoga, Universal Yoga, Viniyoga, and Yin yoga.

Yoga is continuously evolving. But for basic concepts, go back to the Yoga Sutras written by Pantanjali.

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